Tag Archives: child to parent violence and abuse

Safety Work

My son is now 15 and is going to live with his dad. I should have done it a long time ago. (Marley Carroll, November 2018)

At this point I am simply counting the days until she is 18. (Witsend, March 2019)

There are plenty of other similar comments on the Silent Suffering blogsite, and many other places where parents meet up to vent their pain and frustration, and to seek advice and help. An understandable response from a parent,  if the problem is one of regular and increasing violence and abuse over a protracted period of time; rather shocking that it has come to this point where parents feel they can no longer carry on; but ultimately not the preferred outcome if what we are aiming for from the start is greater safety all round.

If a child has to move out to keep everyone safe, the best-case scenario might be a therapeutic setting, experienced foster carers, perhaps a residential school, a hospital, or even secure accommodation, where issues contributing to the abuse and relationship breakdown can be addressed. Sofa surfing between friends, or being shunted between relatives may be a more common resolution. Parents of older children may find they are placed in “supported lodgings” where support may be a misnomer from individuals without the qualifications and understanding to offer specialist help and guidance to vulnerable young people. Organisations such as POTATO and Special Guardians and Adopters Together have much to say about this practice. Other parents report that their younger children have become exposed to drink and drugs, and vulnerable to exploitation, when placed in residential care because a family can no longer cope with them at home.

When a family asks for help, what do we imagine they ask for? What do we imagine they need? Is it the removal of other children for their own safety, leaving the parent to continue to struggle with an angry, needy and potentially dangerous child; and those removed to contemplate why separation from parents who love them and are trying to protect them is the best solution? It might be some advice early on. It might be the provision of therapy to calm things down and work them through. It might be longer term support through an organised programme to restore safety and good family relationships. It might be separation – or respite as a first offer.

Separation offers a drastic response to the need to offer safety to family members, but who exactly are we keeping safe, and why do we imagine that this is the best way to do it? Is there another way?

I started thinking about this a while ago after reading a series of tweets from parents and individuals either seeking support themselves or concerned about what they had heard about others. In March, @FionafromYorks tweeted: Disappointed to hear last night that a mum of a 17yo young man, struggling for years to cope with his daily meltdowns and was told by her she was giving up far too easily, asking for respite. What a . deserve respect & support

Other comments and tweets that I have collected over time include a parent stating that their partner and other children had moved to a hotel temporarily for safety’s sake; and more recently the plea: Officially out of steam for it all. Where are the CPV parents’ refuges? I need one.

The reality is that, if anyone moves out, it might be a partner who feels unable to remain part of this particular family; it might be siblings moved to a family member for a while; but the likelihood is that it will be the young person causing harm who does so. Families are doing ‘safety work’ all the time. How can we support them in this, working with them in what they are hoping for: to keep safe, to stay together, to restore healthy relationships, before it all gets too much and they crash and burn under the weight of impossible emotional and practical demands?

I am struck by how many people report that respite was once an offer but is no longer available to them. Under The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011, local authorities in England must have regard for the needs of those caring for a disabled child if they would be unable to continue without breaks being given, or if they could carry out that care more effectively if breaks were given. Families who would have benefited from this in the past are increasingly finding that the funding has been withdrawn in the face of central government budget cuts. Yet report after report points to the benefits (emotional and economic) of respite care to all concerned. Indeed, the NSPCC and Action for Children 2015 report: Supporting Adolescents on the Edge of Care, The role of short term stays in residential care, outlines the value of breaks for the long term outcomes of young people and their families; and at the launch of the Monash Report on Adolescent Family Violence, in August 2018, Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People in Victoria, described the provision of respite for parents, and accommodation options for young people as a ‘no-brainer”. Somewhat bizarrely (or perhaps creatively) we now find authorities “trialing” respite care as part of the Innovation Programme; and there is a focus on appropriate accommodation for young people as an alternative to youth custody.

Sadly, it is likely that there will always be some families where the complex needs of the young person make it difficult to remain at home. Severe mental health needs may mean that long terms secure care is needed (see for instance Raising Devon or Herding Chickens). For many families the level of need will be less, or the support available early on will enable the family to stay together, and to move on. Nevertheless, for some families experiencing CPV a short break gives a chance to breathe, to sleep, to have some normal time with other children and friends, to regroup and to draw the strength to carry on.

When families ask for a break, what do we imagine they are experiencing? What do we imagine they have tried already? What do we imagine will enable them to remain together safely and to work towards a happier resolution? Is it respite care? How can we find a way to make this possible?

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VAWG Strategy: Lack of Progress update for CPV

The Home Office published its latest VAWG Strategy papers this week, with the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls 2016 – 2020 Strategy Refresh, and the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Action Plan 2016 – 2020 Progress Update. Once again, I was disappointed to see that there was no mention of children’s and adolescent’s violence and abuse towards their parents, though not entirely surprised since it is has not featured as a specific issue since 2014, and only one line mention in 2016. The irony is that, at a local level, many areas are now developing their own strategic response; but by omitting this aspect of violence and abuse from central government documents – and thinking – it remains invisible, unconsidered, and unimaginable for too many people.

You may have heard me argue that we should not necessarily be conceptualising CPVA or APVA as domestic violence anyway, so why am I so peeved? Well of course, the VAWG strategy is not exclusively concerned with what we typically think of as domestic abuse, including also issues such as FGM and honour based violence, sexual violence, and stalking, as well as teenage relationship abuse. There seem to be a lot of similarities in the way parents experience violence and abuse from partners – and from their children; and there are strong links to the experience of previous abuse in the home, and the later expression of violence by the young person. But we now hear from families where their experience is very different, and they seriously struggle with the notion – and labelling – of their children as DA perpetrators: where there are learning difficulties for instance, or where there has been past experience of severe trauma in the child’s life. The more we learn from families, the more we see that there is no one clear profile, no one distinct causal link, and we see that the response that each family requires must be tailored to their specific needs. Nevertheless, by omitting CPVA and APVA from the VAWG strategy, an opportunity is lost to remind commissioners, and practitioners, that this is ‘a thing’, that in some ways it can be understood as an aspect of DA, that the gendered nature of it adds to the abuse that women and girls experience in other ways, and that this remains an under-recognised and under-tackled problem for significant numbers of families.

Many of the Action Points could impact positively on the recognition and response to CPVA. Relationships education in schools, work with gangs, the supporting of whole family approaches to DA work, work within health and housing encouraging practitioners to ask and respond appropriately, partnership working across agencies,  developing better data sets – these are all elements of work that are needed to underpin the recognition, response and resolution of violence and abuse from children to parents. But while Government continues to fail to name the problem, it is too easy for the issue to remain hidden, unrecognised, brushed over. You may feel that you want to take this up and lobby for it to be recognised at higher levels. I plan to publish some suggestions and guidance for this in the next month.

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A Practitioner’s Guide!

I am proud to announce that the book I have been working on for the last year is due for publication very soon!


Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, a Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families, published by Pavilion, is the culmination of my collecting testimony over a much longer period of time – listening particularly to families for their insights into the kinds of support which have been helpful, or not. At the same time, social workers, schools workers, practitioners within housing, domestic abuse, the police, and health have also shared their experiences both of successful interventions and of the horror of not knowing how to help. I have tried to make it accessible and practical. By that I mean that it is not particularly academic, though there are plenty of references to follow up for those who want a more academic approach; and it is full of suggestions of things to think about and to do, as well as  places to find resources or more information. I fear I may have disappointed anyone hoping for a step by step, walk-you-through every possible scenario. As we learn more about child to parent violence and abuse, we see that each family’s situation and experience is unique to them and so it would be impossible to cover every eventuality. There are, however, enough commonalities to offer clear guidelines, based on an understanding of the issues, and a challenge to put aside myths and stereotypes.

Whether you work with families full time or once in a while, whether you consider ourself highly experienced or just starting out, whether you are in a statutory setting or a small voluntary group, I hope there will be something in there for everyone who encounters this issue, to enable you to feel better equipped to offer families the support they so desperately need.

I would like to acknowledge and thank all those who have made this possible, whether through talking about their own experiences, sharing research and thinking, or offering encouragement and practical help; and of course Pavilion over the last months for the publication process itself.

This is just a taster! I hope to be able to offer more news soon.


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Child to parent violence and abuse: new thinking and approaches

The field of child to parent violence and abuse is a rapidly changing one, as new learning and understanding emerges to challenge our way of thinking and service delivery. This makes it an exciting field in which to be working – but also requires us to be on the ball with new research and training opportunities. This last year has seen important work from Dr Hannah Bows into parricide and eldercide; and more findings from a survey of parents by Dr Wendy Thorley and Al Coates, including a challenge to the definition currently in use. Have we got it wrong when we draw distinctions between children, young people and adults in the use of violence towards parents? Should we be using different approaches where children have a diagnosis of ASD or ADHD? Is this a different thing all together, or are there huge overlaps within the community of young people using violence and abuse in the home? Should we be representing this with a giant Venn diagram? Continue reading


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Who’s in Charge? A much awaited book from Eddie Gallagher


Many of us have been waiting a long time for this book to appear. Whether you prefer to think about it as a bible or a brain is up to you, but the 500+ pages represent the outpouring of Eddie Gallagher’s understanding and thinking over nearly 25 years in the field of children’s violence and abuse towards parents, drawing on both available literature and his own significant practice experience, working with families individually and in developing the Who’s in Charge? model of work with parents. Continue reading

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CPV, who needs a definition?

For as long as I have been working and thinking in this field, people have been talking about the problem that there is no official, agreed definition of child to parent violence (or whatever we are going to call it.) There are many and varied reasons why people have thought that having a definition might be quite a good idea. Essentially these are to do with naming it as ‘a thing’, with parents recognising what they experience as abusive, with services being better able to respond, with the possibility of counting something if we name and define it, with the hope of developing policy and practice responses at strategic level.

There were some raised eyebrows then at the recent N8PRP conference on Improving Policing Research and Practice on Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, when it was suggested not once, but twice, that a definition might be more trouble than it was worth and we could do without one altogether! Stick with me, and you can then decide for yourself whether the arguments made sense. Continue reading


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Child to parent violence and sexually inappropriate behaviour

When authors discuss the different ways in which child to parent violence and abuse presents, it is common to include sexual abuse in the list; and yet it is difficult to find anywhere in the literature where this discussion is expanded. I know from conversations with adoptive families that the issue is very much alive, and extremely painful to discuss. While many families fear that a request for help will result in the instigation of a child protection investigation, this is an area where alarm bells will certainly be ringing straight away. How to respond though, in a way that maintains the safety of all involved, while not further traumatising either the young person or the parents, is rarely interrogated. A recent conversation with a friend undertaking a PhD at Bournemouth University has encouraged me that more information and greater discussion may be on the way! Continue reading


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